Jump in number of firms starting projects

In 2019, 11,450 began initiatives to generate $17.3b in value added to economy, create 21,700 PMET jobs

Pslove co-founder Tan Peck Ying says her company has to be aggressive in pushing its internationalisation plans. This year, it will be moving into the Indonesian market. It is also eyeing Australia and the Philippines. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

An increasing number of companies, large and small, are meeting the challenges of the fast-growing economy by embarking on wide-ranging projects to sharpen up their businesses and chase growth.

There was no shortage of takers when it came to trying new avenues, with 11,450 enterprises starting projects last year - up 43 per cent on 2018.

They instigated 13,560 initiatives in all, which are expected to generate an estimated $17.3 billion in value added to the economy.

This is expected to create 21,700 professional, managerial, executive and technical jobs, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) noted yesterday.

ESG chairman Peter Ong said: "The increase in both the number of enterprises and projects in 2019 over 2018 is very encouraging, considering that 2019 was a rather challenging year economically."

He cited trade tensions that created uncertainty and slowdown, especially in export-oriented sectors.

ESG chief executive Png Cheong Boon said the numbers are encouraging as well because of the economic benefits these firms will bring.

"(It) is not just because of the significant increase in the number of small and medium-sized enterprises embarking on capability upgrading, business transformation and internationalisation amidst the challenging economic environment, but also because of the economic impact - new value added and additional skilled jobs."

Despite economic uncertainty last year, 8,300 enterprises started projects to lift productivity and improve their business capabilities, with around 60 per cent coming from the lifestyle, trade, transport and logistics sectors.

About 2,600 businesses also expanded overseas, with over half coming from the wholesale trade, professional services, information and communications technology and retail segments.

  • Start-up not about to stop regional growth

    Many firms were preoccupied with staying afloat during the trade war last year, but start-up Pslove never let up on its regional expansion.

    Now, it intends to defy any slowdown due to the coronavirus.

    Co-founder and chief executive Tan Peck Ying said: "We are aggressive in having a presence across South and South-east Asia, so opening up more markets is at the top of our minds."

    Pslove provides heat therapy patches for conditions ranging from menstrual cramps to neck and shoulder pains.

    It was started in 2014 to give women drug-free alternatives to menstrual pain treatments.

    The company now has a lean team of 12 based in Singapore, with products on sale in Malaysia, India, Thailand, and soon in Indonesia.

    Its distribution channels in Singapore include most of the major pharmacy chains such as Guardian, Watsons and Unity, and supermarkets like FairPrice and Cold Storage.

    Last year, Pslove made a deal with Apollo Pharmacy in India and started a pilot project to sell its products in the chain's stores.

    Enterprise Singapore helped to facilitate the discussions.

    This year, Pslove will be moving into the Indonesian market, having set up operations there.

    It is also eyeing Australia and the Philippines.

    Ms Tan said: "We are still a young start-up, so we have to be aggressive in pushing our internationalisation plans.

    "We have already projected our growth and have ready inventory, so it can help tide us over difficult times like this.

    "Such times are also a reminder that diversifying is very important."

    The start-up also has a pipeline of hygiene products to provide women with better options, and has gone digital with a period-tracking application to help women manage their wellness.

    Ms Tan added: "We are not stopping here but going ahead to internationalise even more, so we can be prepared for events like this."

ESG supported this internationalisation effort by providing assistance to 600 projects that are expected to bring about $8.8 billion of overseas sales and $8.9 billion of overseas investments, it noted in its year-in-review yesterday.

The statutory body also co-organised 230 overseas missions involving nearly 3,360 enterprises.

Mr Ong said: "We want to make internationalisation more accessible for more of our enterprises, as looking beyond our shores will be a key avenue to capture growth."

He added that South-east Asia continues to provide opportunities with a growing middle class and booming digital economy.

More than 500 firms started on innovation projects, a trend backed by Mr Ong, who noted: "There is opportunity to develop new products and services to meet new market needs."

He added that niche sectors such as agri-food tech, e-sports and gaming, edu-tech, sustainability solutions and advanced manufacturing are in demand regionally.

Security services firm Oneberry Technologies was one of the standouts last year after scoring on three fronts - lifting productivity, going international and undertaking innovation. It has developed a system to digitalise the recording and reporting of information, from visitor management to incident reporting.

Chief executive Ken Pereira said: "This has added value to our operations and our clients as they have access to real-time information."

The firm also has a presence in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Mr Pereira said: "We have tapped some market access grants from ESG that helped us in the incorporation of our overseas offices, and support in our due diligence process when acquiring some technologies overseas."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2020, with the headline Jump in number of firms starting projects. Subscribe